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The Heart of Zen: Enlightenment, Emotional Maturity, and What It Really Takes for Spiritual Liberation Paperback – 15 Apr 2014

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The Heart of Zen: Enlightenment, Emotional Maturity, and What It Really Takes for Spiritual Liberation + A Heart Blown Open: The Life and Practice of Zen Master Jun PO Denis Kelly Roshi
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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: North Atlantic Books,U.S. (15 April 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1583947647
  • ISBN-13: 978-1583947647
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 1.9 x 22.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 721,920 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Excellent insightful reading, can't put it down! The way it is written in transcript style helps give the reader a real essence of meaning
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By A C Futter on 17 Aug. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Simply enlightening!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 25 reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Unusual Blend of Tradtional and Modern Ideas 15 July 2014
By Terry MacDonald - Published on
Format: Paperback
Right off the bat, it is easy to see that "The Heart of Zen" is not your typical book on spiritual philosophy. Instead of attempting to summarize or restate the ideas behind Jun Po Denis Kelly Roshi's Mondo Zen practice, Keith Martin-Smith presents readers with a series of interviews presented in the question-and-answer format. In using this particular layout, readers are drawn into the conversation. Martin-Smith asks the questions we, as readers, might ask if given the opportunity.

This pair of collaborators worked together on Jun Po's autobiography, "A Heart Blown Open", and the rapport they have is obvious. Jun Po obviously trusts his interviewer enough to let his personality shine through (he even uses profanity a few times, which is kind of funny!). Readers will be both challenged and* entertained.

"The Heart of Zen" also addresses spiritual awakening and living a spiritual life from an angle that is not necessarily the norm. While traditional approaches to Zen practice take years to master (if they are ever truly mastered), Jun Po's Mondo Zen koan process puts those seeking enlightenment on an accelerated path. He focuses on getting to know your emotions intimately and emphasizes the necessity of integration if you want lasting change in your life through Mondo Zen.

While Keith Martin-Smith shares in his introduction that he hopes the subjects covered in this book will be easy to understand for those not trained in Zen (and includes a historical overview and glossary of terms for this purpose), it would definitely help to have some prior knowledge. If you have a base to work from, you will find this a very quick read. For a strong background, I highly recommend The Awakening of the West: The Encounter of Buddhism and Western Culture.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
A Must Read Book for Any Serious Meditation Practioner 22 April 2014
By Peter Park - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Wow, I finished this book in two days.

These lively Q&As between Junpo and Martin-Smith are priceless. Together, the two of them tackle difficult questions that any long term practitioner will have encountered.

The first chapter, "Diving In" is an introduction to Zen Master Junpo Denis Kelly Roshi, his school of Mondo Zen, and his journey to awakenment. Anyone intrigued by Junpo's life stories would enjoy, A Heart Blown Open: The Life and Practice of Zen Master Jun Po Denis Kelly Roshi.

The following chapters deal with questions of what is the ego? What is enlightenment? What is the relationship between enlightenment and ego? Junpo clarifies the rampant fallacy of trying to transcend and get away from the ego. They also speak about the usefulness of maps and guides to enlightenment as well as the danger of confusing the map with the territory.

The next chapters go into the Mondo Zen koan process of teacher-student interviews. Mondo Zen has 13 Koans beginning with insight question and then proceeding to emotional koans.

I have to say this is pretty radical. In many Zen schools, students can go years on a single koan in utter confusion. Here, Junpo is giving away the question, answer, and even how he verifies the answer is correct, or more accurately, that the answer is coming from the correct place. But, intellectually knowing the right answer and being able to embody and speak from Clear Deep Mind are completely different.

The most valuable contribution of this book, of Mondo Zen, is addressing the question how to integrate those sublime, meditation insights into everyday life? As Junpo notes, meditation can help a person remain non-reactive in the midst of intense emotional states such as anger or depression. However, true awakening requires more than that. He calls for seeing into the information within emotions as another sense perception. This means to not just be able to withstand difficult emotions but to make friends with them. This is the key to radical transformation of character, of being able to respond even in the most challenging situations from a place of calm clarity. How to transform the experience of negative emotions into insight?

Junpo combines the best of Zen with modern psychotherapy understanding to help students truly experience and transform powerful emotions such as depression, anger, and fear. He points out awakened people experience feelings even more intensely, but there is also a choice whether we listen to them or turn away to continue suffering. In many ways, this reminded me of Sartre's words, "Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does." Likewise, much of the emotional work reminds me of similar teachings in Non-Violent Communication and humanistic psychology.

Warning, this is not a feel good, self-improvement type book. Junpo's intensity is conveyed even through the written word when he says, awakening is a matter of life and death. The chapter on meditation instruction begins with a quote, "Sit down, shut up, and listen!" As Keith mentions, Junpo is calling on the reader to take radical, full responsibility for their lives. Meditation helps us to see clearly that we are always choosing how we respond to the world and ultimately have a freedom and responsibility to choose compassionately. Not just in our sitting practice but in all aspects of our life such as our choice of transportation and food.

One caution or possible negative of the book is it might be an advanced Buddhist book. I'm worried beginners would be lost. I dove in without any doubts because I already have a taste for Buddhist language, meditative practice, and personal life experience to know Junpo's words are true. To Keith Martin-Smith's credit, he jokingly mentions several times the idea of readers closing the book in disgust. He also repeatedly asks for clarification or personal examples from Junpo. There's even a glossary defining terms such as emptiness. For my new, practice friends, I would suggest reading their previous book, A Heart Blown Open first. On the plus side, I can easily see this book being picked up several times throughout my life and getting a different inspiration and insight each time.

Another possible con is that Junpo, himself, says that these koan interviews are best done with a qualified teacher. Although the book provides great insights and ideas, readers won't become a Buddha by only reading it.

Mondo Zen is at the cutting edge forefront of a movement within Buddhist circles to tackle the next step beyond just meditation practice and philosophical study. How to truly become fully awaken, how to modernize Buddhism to be relevant and resonant to a modern culture, and ultimately what's the point of it all this study and practice if it doesn't transform our character and help heal the real suffering in the world?

I hope this book helps you as much as it did me.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Must Read for Zen Folks and Seekers of all Sorts 23 April 2014
By David E. Klaus - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read this book as soon as it came into my hands. For some time I have admired JunPo Denis Kelly and the Mondo Zen approach, and I very much enjoyed Keith Martin-Smith's biography of him. This book expands into the ideas and framework of Mondo Zen, and describes Mondo's unique merging of traditional Zen with modern emotional literacy and ethics.

Readers who have enjoyed works ranging from Eckart Tolle to Gurdjieff will find this book to be sheer catnip with its clear and sensible description of the phenomenon of ego, and presentation of ways to interact with it. For example, a key teaching of JunPo is to collaborate with the ego, to enlist it in the goal of awakening, a major difference from Tolle.

The use of a dialogue format is very helpful, for it allows JunPo to speak in his own unique voice and humor, while allowing Martin-Smith to serve as an informed but inquisitive interviewer: just as a question forms in the reader's mind, Martin-Smith is there to ask it, and JunPo to answer.

By the end of the book, the entire Mondo Zen koan process has been presented and elucidated, with detailed commentary, as well as encouragement and inspiration.

For students of Zen, as well as students of psychology and self-improvement, this book is an invaluable and enjoyable read!
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Best book on Zen I've ever read 17 April 2014
By Forest Linden - Published on
Format: Paperback
This has to be, without a doubt, the best approach to living a Zen practice and bringing the wisdom of this path into modern times, and right into the everyday fabric of your life.

The clarity of insight that Jun Po has, and the ability of Martin-Smith to guide and translate Jun Po's teachings, are really powerful in this book.

The Heart of Zen seems to take all of the confusion out of practicing Zen and integrating it into modern life. Totally loved it for that.

Well worth taking the time to read this one if you're truly interested in waking up.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
the missing link book 24 May 2014
By H. Alex McFerron - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
One day a few years back I got up in the morning and meditated, then went to a yoga class that was an hour and a half, and then walked to the grocery store to get lunch. At the grocery store there was a jerk who was not acting properly in front of me and I flipped out with grocery store rage. I left the grocery store and I just had to laugh at myself because I had done all sorts of relaxing and centering practices that morning yet it had failed to protect me and the world from my unconscious reactivity and behavior. My outburst did nothing to help the jerk see that he was being a jerk and it did nothing positive for me either. It was a waste of time and energy.

If you can relate to what I just said, then purchase this book ASAP. This book explains how meditation isn’t enough but that we also have to develop into mature emotional beings and it goes further and helps you learn how to do that. If you are looking for a Buddhist methodology for becoming less reactive and less controlled by subconscious behavior patterns then this is the book for you.

But, that isn’t all this book is either. This book is so much more in addition to what I already listed, which is pretty incredible alone.
This book also covers really complex and esoteric Buddhist topics like ego in a really accessible and modern way and language. The way it is written and the speaker who is being interviewed in the Q &A, Jun Po has a way of explaining things that is funny but also enlightening at the same time. You’ll laugh while becoming enlightened.

I could not put this book down and I plan to use it as a reference in the future.

This book answers the question “Why bother” in terms of why bother having a spiritual practice like Buddhism and what does it bring to your life and what does it give the world. And it also brings up some pretty important modern concepts like emotional reactivity and merges them with Buddhism. Pretty cool stuff. As far as I’m concerned, it is the missing link I was longing for and I’m relieved to find it.
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